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Overtaking as an interactional achievement: video analyses of participants' practices in traffic

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    Rights statement: Open Access: Discourse and Conversation Analysis is an open access journal. It is available at no cost for readers and does not charge authors for publication. It is funded by the Verein für Gesprächsforschung e.V., the German Research Council (DFG) and by grants of readers.

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2018


In this article we pursue a systematic and extensive study of overtaking in traffic as an interactional event. Our focus is on the accountable organisation and accomplishment of overtaking by road users in real-world traffic situations. Data and analysis are drawn from multiple research groups studying driving from an ethnomethodological and conversation analytic perspective. Building on multimodal and sequential analyses of video recordings of overtaking events, the article describes the shared practices which overtakers and overtaken parties use in displaying, recognising and coordinating their manoeuvres. It examines the three sequential phases of an overtaking event: preparation and projection; the overtaking proper; the realignment post-phase including retrospective accounts and assessments. We identify how during each of these phases drivers and passengers organise intra-vehicle and inter-vehicle practices: driving and non-driving related talk between vehicleoccupants, the emerging spatiotemporal ecology of the road, and the driving actions of other road users. The data is derived from a two camera set-up recording the road ahead and car interior. The recordings are from three settings: daily commuting, driving lessons, race-car coaching. The events occur on a variety of road types (motorways, country roads, city streets, a race track, etc.), in six languages (English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, and Swedish) and in seven countries (Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK). From an exceptionally diverse collection of video data, the study of which is made possible thanks to the innovative collaboration of multiple researchers, the article exhibits the range of practical challenges and communicative skills involved in overtaking.

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